With the recent success of Michael Campbell recently, it seems that New Zealand is going through a bit of a golf fad at the moment. Unfortunately half of us only play golf in real life if there is a windmill or if we get to drive those cool little carts. Even though Tiger Woods simulates neither of these, golf lamers like us can still dig it.
The most unique aspect of the Tiger Woods games would be the control set-up. Instead of your usual power bar you hit the ball by actually swinging with the analogue stick. Whilst your first shots will be a little random, it feels a lot more like your actually playing golf than with other games where you’re just lining up on screen bars all the time. Add to the new ability to select where you hit the ball with the right stick and you have the most accurate and realistic controls yet used in a golf game. Although you will be nailing the ball like a pro in no time, getting your shots to land just where you wanted to is extremely satisfying.
The putting controls have been changed as well. Caddie tips are out and a camera angle showing the perfect line to the hole is in. This means putting isn’t so much based on guess work and it’s much easier to estimate where the ball is going to end up. People new to the Tiger games will find putting a bit tricky at first, but keep at it and you will get much better at reading the greens and knowing how much power to use.
The main meat of the game is the ‘Rivals Mode’ where most of the extra goodies can be unlocked from. In this mode you will travel through time facing off against the best players in golfing history. This does make things more interesting than your standard career mode as the events from each period are themed, so for example, different items will be available from the shop in each time zone. As well as this you have a traditional season mode, skill tests and of course X-box Live. Personally I usually just used the ‘Play Now’ feature, but it’s nice to have so many options and unlockables.
Graphically the game looks very nice, and the courses look very realistic and sharp. The scenery is as vibrant as it could be whilst still being realistic and there are a couple of new atmospheric effects to give the courses a little more life. All the golfers are fully customisable and animated well, even if their teeth do look a little funny. The problem is that it’s all old hat. If you have played any of the recent games in the series, you will have seen all this before, there really hasn’t been much change and it’s time for some new tricks, but I don’t think we’ll see a new sheen to the visuals until the next generation of consoles rolls along.
The sound effects are also mainly unchanged, but they are still very satisfying. Hitting a power shot will sound much like a plane flying past your house – I had my subwoofer cranked and my flatmates thought I was playing X-Wing or something. As well as being able to customise the look of your golfer you can also customise his voice. To be honest though this feature is useless and changing the voice just makes it more annoying than normal. Some of the dialogue had my flatmate and myself in stitches when we were playing the game - comments like ‘Get on the dance floor! Get on the dance floor!’,’Get in your home! Get in your home!’ and ‘Be the number! Be the number!’ will soon start to grate. Your player has an odd habit of yelling everything twice for extra emphasis…
In the end the latest Tiger Woods game is probably the best yet - some features are more fully fleshed out here so if you don’t have a golf game in your collection yet, this is the ideal place to start. However, 06 really doesn’t do anything that will make the game attractive to those that already have a Tiger game. For me the series peaked a little while ago and there isn’t really anywhere for it to go unless there is some serious re-invention. The problem I guess is that the previous games were so good that we won’t see anything significantly better from the current generation machines.